THERE IS NO IRANIAN-AMERICAN AGREEMENT AND NO TRUCE IN IRAQ

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier@ejmalrai

Mustafa Al-Kazemi has been chosen Prime Minister after difficult negotiations marked by intra-Shiite disagreement. The President of the Republic, Barham Salih, had exploited this disagreement when he boldly challenged the majority Shia in Iraq by his choice of an anti-Iranian and pro-US candidate, Mr Adnan Al-Zurfi. The nomination of Mr Al-Kazemi is a response to this move; Shiite blocs had already circulated his name several months ago. 

When Mr Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the caretaker Prime Minister, resigned, consultation began among various Shia political leaders to find a candidate enjoying support from most blocs. That is a task that, in the past, had always been given to the Iranian IRGC-Quds commander Major General Qassim Soleimani (treacherously assassinated by President Donald Trump at Baghdad Airport) and Sheikh Muhammad Kawtharani, who represents Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Sayyed Nasrallah enjoys great respect and a close personal relationship with all Iraqi parties of different religions and policies (Shi’a, Sunni, Kurds, tribal, and others) with whom he is in regular contact. Iraqi leaders failed to reach the agreement without outside intervention.

Many Shia groups categorical rejected President Saleh’s candidate (al-Zurfi) and decided to oppose his candidacy. However, Al-Kazemi’s selection as a new Prime Minister did not take place until Tehran asked all the Shi’ite blocs to unify their decision, to disregard al-Zurfi and choose a candidate that all could agree upon. 

This is how al-Kazemi reached the premiership:

Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, supported by Muqtada al-Sadr, was the first to promote Mustafa Al-Kazemi last year following the resignation of Abdel-Mahdi. However, other Shiite blocs refused to accept any counter-terrorism officer, intelligence chief or any other officer belonging to the military-security establishment. Many Shia blocs are apprehensive about any candidate with a similar profile to Saddam Hussein. The experience of Nuri al-Maliki in control – he who refused to share the power with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – is still alive in these leaders’ memory.

Due to the disagreement within the Shia bloc, Qusay al-Suhail fell and was followed by the governor of Basra, Asaad Al-Eidani, when President Barham Salih refused to abide by the constitution and nominate the candidate of the largest bloc. Saleh played on the intra Shiite disagreement, mainly between the Al-Fatah bloc headed by Hadi al-Amiri and the Saeroun bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

Because demonstrators rejected any candidate nominated by the dominant political blocs, Sayyid Muqtada tried to ride the wave by considering himself the representative of the demonstrators who in fact refused him as they did other establishment figures. Subsequently, President Saleh was asked by Sayyed Moqtada to reject any name he did not agree with. Moqtada claimed that he, not Al-Amiri, held the largest bloc. 

Later on, Muhammad Allawi also failed because he refused to consult the Sunni, the Kurdish blocs, and some Shiites in choosing his cabinet members. Allawi wrongly believed he could rely on the support of Sayyed Muqtada Al-Sadr, who had promised to bring everyone to Parliament by all means to approve Allawi’s cabinet. Moqtada failed to convince the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds, and was unable to bring Allawi to power.

However, President Saleh went further relying on the Iraqi constitution rather the prevailing consensus between Iraqis (Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurd) and nominated Adnan al-Zrafi, who is anti-Iran and pro-American. Many political blocs and Shia organisations announced their rejection of al-Zarfi. At the same time, the Dawa candidate (Adnan al-Zarfi) enjoyed the support of his chief bloc, led by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Al-Zurfi was also secretly supported by Nuri al-Maliki, who wanted the position of prime minister to return to the Dawa Party (since 2005 and until 2018 al-Da’wa held the position of PM). Al-Zurfi also enjoyed support from Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr, who had been promised control over any ministerial cabinet or any other senior position within the Iraqi state.

Despite Iran’s official statement that it did not oppose the nomination of Al-Zurfi, the reality was different. Al-Zurfi was tacitly accused of burning Iran’s consulate in Najaf and Karbala during last months’ demonstrations. Admiral Ali Shamkhani – who, along with Major General Qassim Soleimani, was in charge of the relationship between Iran and Iraq – visited Iraq, followed by a short visit of General Ismail Qa’ani. Both men carried one message to the Iraqis: “We don’t disagree with the choice of Mr Mustafa Al-Kazemi, if he is your choice, and we enjoy good relations with him.” Iran has never said these words about al-Zurfi.

First Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani announced his support for al-Kazemi, and then Sunni leader, Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, followed suit. Barzani wanted to send a message to the Shiite blocs, so they would not again choose a candidate for the presidency who does not have a Kurdish authority above him, as happened with President Saleh.

Saleh was Qassem Soleimani’s choice and turned out today to be a mistake from the Iranian and the Shia blocs’ point of view. Fouad Hussein, the Minister of Finance, was Erbil’s choice, but Soleimani considered him at the time the candidate of the American presidential envoy Bret McGurk. This is why Soleimani asked the Shiites, Sunnis, and his allies Kurds in Sulaimaniyah not to vote to Hussein but to promote Barham Saleh. Saleh told Soleimani in 2018 that he would immediately nominate the candidate he wanted. This is how Adil Abdul Mahdi was elected Prime Minister.

There has never been a US-Iranian understanding in Iraq. Instead, when possible candidates have been chosen to attract minimal opposition from the Iranians and the Americans. Al-Kazemi enjoys good relations with Riyadh, Tehran, and Washington, as was the case of the caretaker Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. Abdil Mahdi had been supported by Washington and yet, a year later, it was he who presented a draft proposal to the Iraqi Parliament demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq.

Al-Kazemi, who promised to support the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (hashd al-Shaabi), agreed to seek the removal of all US forces from Iraq, as stipulated in the binding constitutional decision of the Iraqi Parliament. Tehran convinced its ally, Kataeb Hezbollah al-Iraq, which had publicly accused Al-Kazemi of responsibility for the assassination of Commander Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, to accept al-Kazemi as a Prime Minister and wait to see his actions before judging him. The price of the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandes is the total withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq, and not al-Kazemi.

This time – after three failed attempts to nominate a prime minister  – Al-Kazemi will be supported to form his cabinet and will have the parliamentary support needed. However, he will face severe difficulties and challenges. 

The US is redeploying its forces and not showing any intention of complete withdrawal. Al-Kazemi will not be able to seek an easy US withdrawal and won’t be able to disarm Iraqi organisations as he promised to do. Moreover, he will face a real economic problem because Iraq suffers from a low oil price and external debts. The income of Iraq is just over 30 billion dollars whereas it needs 80 billion to pay salaries and maintain the infrastructure as it is. Al-Kazemi will not be able to respond to demands from the street because he simply does not have enough money. 

Iran is not afraid who sits at the top of the Iraqi government; today’s friend may turn out to be tomorrow’s enemy. Tehran enjoys enough connections with political leaders and military commanders and head of organisations in Iraq. Iran has experienced an aggressive Prime Minister in the past, Haidar Abadi, and managed its way in Iraq, a country sensitive to a balance among its political leaders. The US doesn’t have enough leverage in Iraq to match the leverage of Iran.

Proofread by:  C.G.B

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020 

IRAQI POLITICS IN A STORM, HEADING TOWARDS INSTABILITY AND CHAOS

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier:  @ejmalrai

Following Iraqi president Barham Saleh’s nomination of Adnan al-Zarfi (Zurufi or Zurfi) as the new Prime Minister, Iraq has entered a critical stage.  The Shia block is divided. The 30 days given to al-Zarfi to nominate his cabinet will lead either to a quorum of the parliament recognising his new cabinet and in consequences to a bloody future that could lead to unrest and even partition of Iraq or absence of a quorum. Why did President Saleh nominate al-Zarfi?

In 2018 Speaker Mohamad Halbousi proposed Barham Saleh as President. The proposal was adopted by “Al-Fateh”, the largest Shia coalition, with the agreement of the Sunni. Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and US presidential envoy Brett McGurk were against the nomination of Saleh. It was Iranian IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani who pushed for Barham Saleh to become president. Saleh, upon his nomination, promised Soleimani to be “better than Mam Jalal” (Uncle Jalal Talibani, one of Iran’s closest allies). Once Saleh was elected, he was asked by the “Al-Fateh” coalition, to nominate Adel Abdel Mahdi as prime minister, and he complied.  One year later, Abdel Mahdi was asked by the Marjaiya in Najaf to resign in response to street demonstrations demanding reforms, necessary infrastructure and better job opportunities.

Soleimani met with Shia leaders who all agreed– with the exception of Hadi al-Ameri, who wanted to be the Prime Minister of Iraq – to nominate Qusay al-Suheil. Al-Fateh forwarded the name to President Barham Salih who refused to appoint al-Suheil and went to Erbil for a few days, enough time for the street to reject the nomination. It was Sayyed Moqtada al Sadr – who rejected the nomination of al Suheil – who then contacted President Saleh and informed him that he represented the largest coalition, called “Sairoon”. Saleh, who feared Moqtada’s reaction, sent a letter to the parliament and the constitutional court asking them to define the “largest coalition”. None managed to respond clearly to this request.

The Iraqi constitution’s definition of the “largest coalition” is elastic and subject to interpretation. President Barham Saleh maliciously threw this apple of discord between the parliament and the constitutional court. It was Nuri al-Maliki who in 2010 introduced a new definition of “large coalition” to beat Ayad Allawi, who had managed to gather 91 MPs and was eligible to form a government. Al-Maliki formed a broad coalition after the MPs took their oaths and established that he was leading the largest coalition, as defined by the final alliances formed after the parliamentary elections, rather than by the poll results.

President Salih told Soleimani that the Shia coalition was divided and that he was not in a position to decide. At the same time, Salih accommodated the Americans who saw that Soleimani’s candidates were failing to win consensual approval. Iran’s Shia allies were effectively contributing to the failure of Soleimani’s efforts to reach an agreement among Shia over a PM nominee.

By forwarding his resignation on November 29, 2019, to President Salih, Adil Abdel Mahdi made it clear he no longer wished return to power. On February 1, Salih nominated Mohamad Allawi on Moqtada al-Sadr’s demand. Moqtada was given the leading role in choosing a candidate following the US assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. This leadership was agreed to in Tehran by General Ismail Qaaani, who believed Moqtada should lead all groups because he was the main instigator of the protests. Even if the people in the street no longer welcomed Moqtada, he remained the only one capable of clearing the road and allowing the formation of a new government. Iran’s priority was for the parliament and the government to concentrate on the withdrawal of all foreign forces, led by the US.

Mohammad Allawi failed to achieve a parliamentary quorum because he behaved condescendingly towards some of the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds. Allawi believed that Moqtada’s support was sufficient and that all the other groups and ethnicities would have to accept his choice of ministers. Allawi presented his resignation to Salih on March 2.

According to article 73/3 of the Iraqi constitution, the sole authority for nominating a prime minister belongs to the president, who has 15 days to select a candidate. However, President Salih gave the Shia 15 days to choose a candidate. A coalition of seven members representing all Shia groups was formed—they presented 17 candidates. Three names were offered: Naim al-Suheil, Mohamad al-Soudani and Adnan al-Zarfi. Naim al-Suheil received the most votes but was rejected by Faleh al-Fayad. 

Although al-Zarfi is a member of the al-Nasr party led by former PM Haidar Abadi (al-Nasr was formed in 2018), Nuri al-Maliki pushed hard for al-Zarfi (also a member of al-Da’wa party) and sent him to Beirut to convince the Lebanese to bless his nomination. Iran was against the designation of a US national (al-Zarfi holds a US passport). Confronted by Iran’s rejection, Al-Maliki managed to convince Moqtada al-Sadr to nominate al-Zarfi. Al-Maliki managed even if al-Zarfi was the one who fought against Jaish al-Mahdi – with US support – in Najaf in 2004, persecuted Moqtada in the city and expelled him to Baghdad. Moqtada al-Sadr – who recently refused any prime minister holding dual nationality – put his signature on the agreed paper offered to Salih along with Nuri al-Maliki, Haidar Abadi and Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim as per the newly claimed “largest coalition”.

It was a golden opportunity for Salih, with the absence of Soleimani, to please the Americans, the Kurds, the Sunni and a large group of Shia. Salih used his constitutional authority to nominate al-Zarfi as a prime minister. It will be a blow to Iran if al-Zarfi manages to form his government and present it to the parliament.  With the support of such a large coalition of Shia-Sunni-Kurdish MPs, he will no doubt reach the necessary quorum.

One of the main reasons Moqtada al-Sadr supported al-Zarif (apart from al-Zarif’s promise to satisfy Moqtada’s requests in the new cabinet) is the birth of a new group called “Osbat al-Thaereen” (the “Movement of the Revolutionary Association” – MRA). This group claimed twice its responsibility for bombing al-Taji military base where the US and other members of the coalition have a permanent presence. Sayyed Moqtada rejects any attacks on US forces and prefers acting through diplomatic channels (via the parliament). Many Iraqi groups close to Iran swore to seek the withdrawal of the US forces mainly due to the Pentagon’s refusal to discuss a full removal of troops. The US is only willing to relocate troops. Moreover, the US is reinforcing its presence in crucial bases in Iraq (K1, Ayn al-Assad and Erbil) and is about to bring the Patriot interception missile system to its bases in Iraq, without Iraqi government consent.

If al-Zarfi manages to get parliament approval, he may seek to avoid any withdrawal negotiations with the US. He would also merge Hashd al-Shaabi and attempt to disarm the Iraqi groups close to Iran. But al-Zarfi is not in a position to seek a change of the parliament’s decision related to the US withdrawal. That issue will concern the newly elected parliament. However, al-Zarfi, like any new prime minister, is expected to gather a large number of MPs in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, enough to seek the prolonged presence of the US forces in Iraq.

Osbat al-Thaereen warned the US forces in Iraq.

This scenario is only applicable if al-Zarfi manages to reach the parliament in 30 days with a new cabinet and to retain his allies, notably the Shia. Iran will do everything possible to make things difficult for al-Zarfi. The ex-governor of Najaf was accused of burning the two Iranian consulates in Karbala and Najaf last year and is expected to follow the path of his al-Nasr coalition leader (former PM Abadi) in respecting US sanctions on Iran. That would be devastating to Iran’s economy, already suffering from the harshest US sanctions ever.

Al-Zarfi as prime minister will be a major blow to Iran and to those who support its objectives and ideology in Iraq. The coronavirus will not keep Iran away from the Iraqi theatre; Iran will not allow Iraq to fall under US control. If al-Zarfi comes to power, the stability of Iraq will be shaken, and partition will be back on the table. An era of instability can be expected in Mesopotamia under an Iraqi prime minister considered to be an ally of the US, particularly following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Proofread by:  C.G.B

 This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com   2020 

Related Videos

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: